Whispering Willows Dev Dishes On Indie Game's Success And Possible Sequel

Whispering Willows

It’s the old Catch 22 for recent college grads: you need experience to get a job, but can’t get a job without experience. You can focus on not finding a job in your desired field right away, or you can make your experience like David Logan, CEO of Night Light Interactive. Logan, who desired to get into game development, created Whispering Willows after he and his fellow California State University, Chico graduates were unable to land a job in the gaming industry.

Whispering Willows has not gone unnoticed. It all started when Logan’s team entered a video game contest with a company called Ouya, which was sponsoring a game jam for its upcoming console. Whispering Willows won awards in a couple of the contest’s categories and it inspired them to continue developing the game. Soon after their success in the Ouya contest, Night Light Interactive launched a Kickstarter to raise $15,000 and surpassed its goal with a total of $21,000 in funds. Whispering Willows officially launched in 2014 with the help of a team of a 20-person team working on the game. Since launching Whispering Willows, Logan's team has showcased the game at many conventions, including E3 2015.

“We started development for [Whispering Willows] in late 2012,” Logan told iDigitalTimes. “It took us about a year and a half to release the original game, which came out on the Ouya console, the one we originally did the contest for, as well as Steam. About a month and a half ago we released on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. Very shortly we’ll be releasing on Xbox One and Wii U and mobile.

“It’s been pretty crazy,” Logan said about the success of the indie game. “We never planned on having [Whispering Willows] on all these consoles, but there were a lot of fans that really enjoyed the game and a lot of people that wanted to see it on their preferred console. We’ve worked really hard with Abstraction games, whose doing the Wii U and Xbox One porting for us and Loot Interactive who did the PlayStation 4 and the PlayStation Vita port.”

In Whispering Willows, you play as a teenage girl named Elena who runs away from home to find her father. He's been missing for several weeks. She decides to retrace his steps and starts exploring the last place he was seen- an old mansion where he worked as a grounds keeper. She soon learns she has the ability to astral-project her soul, which helps her explore the grounds and learn its terrifying secrets.

Whispering Willows
Elena can astro-project her spirit, which can interact with ghosts and see puzzles the human eye can miss. Photo: Night Light Interactive
Whispering Willows
Elena's spirit is invulnerable, but her body is not. If the monsters catch up to Elena's body while her spirit is in another room, she can die. Photo: Night Light Interactive
Whispering Willows
Each spirit has a story to tell in Whispering Willows. Photo: Night Light Interactive

“It’s very much an adventure game, but it has a lot of puzzle elements,” Logan said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a horror game, but it’s 'horror-themed.' It’s very 'haunted house' horror. There’s not many instances where stuff jumps out at you and scares you to death. We’ve tried to build a very spooky atmosphere just with the music, the art and some of the monsters you’ll find.”

Elena’s story in Whispering Willows unfolds across four chapters. She encounters different spirits residing in the mansion and must help them get out of their current state of limbo. Each chapter will introduce you to a spirit who has his or her own story, but each story ties to the overall plot. Logan credits Whispering Willows writer Kyle Holmquist for bringing the story to life. Logan said Holmquist was the first piece in the development process that pushed the game forward.

Logan explained he’d always been interested in creating a game that had a deep story base, but it was the mechanics that first inspired his vision for Whispering Willows. Logan thought the idea of the duality between the spiritual and human form would make for an interesting dynamic in a game and Whispering Willows slowly developed from there. 

“For me, I always really wanted to [make] a very heavily story-based game, but it started with the gameplay mechanic itself. I like exploring different kinds of mechanics and I thought it would be really neat to have this duality between forms and have two forms that have different powers. It kind of evolved to, ‘Well, there hasn’t been a lot of things with ghosts,’” Logan said. “From there the first person I connected with was [writer Kyle Holmquist]. We tied a story [to the mechanics] and it became Whispering Willows.”

In Whispering Willows, you’ll need Elena and her spirit form to help solve the mysteries of the mansion. The ghost has the ability to possess objects and see things Elena’s human form cannot. You’ll need Elena’s human form to open doors and traverse spaces. Elena’s spirit is completely invulnerable, but her body is not. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in a situation where her spirit will have to race against the clock to solve a puzzle before a monster gets to your body. If your body dies, you die. The best part for Logan is watching people play the game and seeing their emotional reactions.

“This is kind of a cop out answer, but my favorite part is watching the reactions of other people playing,” He laughed. “The actual moment in the game that I like the most is somewhere in the second chapter you help a murderer and the victim of a very violent crime kind of make up and reconcile their mistakes. I think it’s a very powerful moment because the one spirit has been dwelling over this and is why he’s stuck in this limbo.”

Whispering Willows is currently available on Steam, Ouya, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. Night Light Interactive has yet to announce a release date for the Xbox One and Wii U, but Logan did say there is a possibility to they will continue the Whispering Willow story.

“We’re currently considering the possibility of a sequel," Logan said. "[First], we’re going to see how Whispering Willows does on consoles and if it makes sense. We kinda started preplanning for a sequel, but we’ll see if it comes to light.”

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